PASS THE PIE

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PASS THE PIE

It shouldn’t be so complicated, really. But, like so many other things, we humans—myself included– make it so.

It doesn’t take much extra time or effort, and it certainly doesn’t cost anything. Just a few moments to think about what we have, and maybe what we’re lucky that we don’t have. Several minutes here and there to stop ourselves from the busy-ness and look around.

They are everywhere, if you just look for them. So many things to be grateful for, so much we can say a quick ‘thank you’ for.

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I am guilty. I don’t look around enough, nor do I always take those few extra moments that can make the difference between seeing something as good instead of bad.

In my blog two weeks ago, I strung my sisters up for loving the wind. The blasted Kansas wind that sometimes hollows out my soul. This time it was blasting northwest winds that brought me down, winds we fought for almost 3 ½ hours as we drove northwest to Gail’s house for the annual Thanksgiving celebration that she hosts with the most every year on Thanksgiving Saturday.

Driving into this driving wind, I tried to find some way to enjoy it, some way to see it as positive. I failed at that, so I downshifted one gear, and found a few things I could be thankful about despite the wind:

*The ground was wet from snow and rain, so there was minimal fire danger.

*There was no precipitation falling at that time.

*Our car was warm and sturdy, fighting the whipping wind. The space-age technology in our Subaru even braked the car automatically when a large tumbleweed blew across Interstate 70 right in front of us, causing the car to think it was an obstacle to brake for, which, obviously, it was.

Despite all this, I still cussed my sisters. So did many other family members.

But we’re not here to cuss and complain. Since the maiden post in this blog, we have tried to keep it positive, with gratitude and positivity as core element of our posts.   If ever we go down, we always try to come back up in the end, offering optimism and a happy ending.

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. The family, food, faith, friends and fun are celebrated today—especially today—with a reminder and challenge to offer up this gratitude every day. There are no commercial expectations, no gifts to buy—just good food, and lots of it.

Gail, in case you couldn’t guess from previous posts, is the hostess/cook extraordinaire.  We honor our mother’s dressing recipe by repeating it to our best abilities, which is usually pretty darn good.  We try to make it with all three of us together, but this year, it was only Gail and Suzanne. It is so good, in fact, that there are a select few people in Gail’s small town who request a sample, and Gail delivers.  It’s all in the spirit of giving.

Along with the dressing, the menu consists of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, cream cheese corn–all from Gail’s kitchen. Every family member brings their specialties, including: sweet potato casserole (mine), green bean casserole (Suzanne’s), rolls, vegetable trays, cookies, appetizers, sausage/cheese/cracker tray and multiple desserts. There is no shortage of food.

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Gail and I delight in preparing homemade pies. We must brag that never once, with the hundreds of pies we have made collectively throughout our lives, have we purchased ready-made pie crusts. Mom taught us well. I made nine pies Wednesday evening to share between my two family celebrations. Gail, always the over-achiever (in a good way), went the extra mile to carve the flesh out of a fresh pumpkin for her pie.

 

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Family is always the first important ‘F’ of all them listed above. Being together with most of our family is the greatest gift of the holiday. Everyone helps,

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and everyone partakes and enjoys.

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Full stomachs match our full hearts,

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and family is celebrated in many ways.

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The hostesses and hosts with the mostesses and mosts.

Full stomachs and hearts also translate into a full house, so for the second year in a row, my husband and I enjoyed the solitude of a small cabin on the small lake in Gail’s small town for the night.

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Mercifully, the wind died down overnight, and we awoke to some wind with the cold, but it was manageable.

Giving thanks for the basics of fabulous Thanksgiving food and shelter from the wind was the order of the day. This morning, I gave thanks for the third basic element of physical survival: clothing. With four thin layers on top and one heavy layer on the bottom, I gave thanks for the opportunity to stay warm while moving my legs and body with my daily run/walk, this time around the lake.

Taking a lesson from the birds of nature, I offered up thanks for the water and the sunshine as well. No matter the weather, nature offers a daily bounty to be thankful for, and despite the wind and cold, it was no different this morning.

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The geese have it figured out; they know how to enjoy the cold, the wet and the wind. With their cue, I did, too.

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We got back to Gail’s house this morning, and we were greeted with fresh coffee and brunch. Gail, of course, was back at it in the kitchen again. After the eggs and ham, the pies once again beckoned, so we answered the call. We passed the pie.

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Our signature picture at the beginning of every blog was taken three years ago in Camp Gail, her small but mighty room-of-her-own in her home. It is decorated with anything and everything that brings her joy. I have Fort Kathleen in my home, which is my space that fills me up, filled up with all the things that bring me joy. We are immensely grateful for these spaces and for the joy they bring us.  Suzanne, ever the minimalist, does not want such a crowded space, and that’s okay too.

Every year during the Thanksgiving celebration, we take another picture in Camp Gail, and they are posted at the beginning of each blog. They signify our continued sisterhood, which keeps going and keeps growing in its depth and meaning.

Despite our losses, we continue to be grateful for each other, for the rest of our families, our friends, for our health, happiness, hopes and dreams fulfilled and those still in progress.

Gratitude, in its simplest form, is just two words: thank you. No matter which force you pray to, this is the building block of living a simply wonderful life. It’s not hard. Just remember to give thanks every day of the year for all things great and small.  It can turn negativity into positivity.  It’s your choice–and mine, too, free for the taking.

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May every day be Thanksgiving Day for you.

 

 

ANGELS AMONG US

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ANGELS AMONG US

I had a welcome guest last night.  He hadn’t visited in awhile, even though he knows my door is always open for him, and I would so love to see him more often.  I can’t predict when he will show up, but it always seems to be at the perfect time.

Be careful what you wish for.  I think I have given this admonition a few times before.

I had a dream about my dad last night.  He stopped by our house for a casual visit, as if he had never been gone.  All my dreams about Mom and Dad—and there aren’t many—are always in the context of a normal gathering, interaction or visit.  They are still on earth in my dreams, never having left.

In this dream, my dad stopped by our house just as I discovered a water leak.  It appeared to be coming from the top floor, draining two floors below to the basement.  I immediately brought it to my husband’s attention, my Mark of all trades and master of all—especially plumbing, and he was more concerned that we get going to wherever we were going at the moment.  “We’ll take care of it when we get back,” he said.

Now, if you know my husband, you know this is preposterous, he would have been on it in a cloud of dust; no hesitation.  The plumber from my hometown even showed up in my dream, and took a look at it.  He couldn’t figure it out.  My husband did take the time to check it out, but couldn’t find the leak, either.

My dad–my brilliant father, took one look and found a faulty plug on a nonexistent toilet in a nonexistent bathroom in our home.

Problem solved.

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Any essence of creativity for today’s blog didn’t show up yesterday, as I was trying to get it going.  I had several started, and several waiting in the wings, but nothing came together.  I thought perhaps I may have to crap out for this week, and try again next week.  I am at the mercy of this fickle force; if it doesn’t show up, there is nothing I can do to find the words.

At the end of the day yesterday, I prayed for some spark of inspiration, some guidance; some ideas.  I woke up with ideas swimming this morning, courtesy, I’m sure, of my dad’s visit.

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I put the Thanksgiving/autumn decorations away yesterday.  I felt a bit blue, as Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  My husband suggested we get started on the Christmas decorations, and this made me even more blue.  I wanted to enjoy the space between the holidays with a bit of nothingness; I wanted to savor the lingering Thanksgiving tidings before hauling out the Christmas ones.

I feel strongly about the meaning of Christmas, but I don’t feel so good about how our society commercializes it.  I struggle with this every year.  I languish in the element of gratitude Thanksgiving brings; enhancing the practice of giving thanks can only be a positive formula for the striving toward peace on earth that Christmas should bring.

I decided to change one thing to try to keep the spirit of Thanksgiving more alive all year.

Several weeks ago, I found a Thanksgiving angel created by Jim Shore, one of my favorite artists.  He has become a favorite because Dad used to buy his pieces for Mom, having discovered them at their local drug store/gift shop.  He had bought her several pieces which we divided among us, and I have added to them with my own.  Mom loved angels.  We decided to engrave one on her side of their tombstone.

When I found this “Joy In The Harvest” angel, I knew she needed to come home with me.  So she did.

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When I put her away yesterday with the other Thanksgiving decorations, it brought me down.  When I woke up this morning, the first thought I remember was this:  Get the angel back out and leave her up all year.  Put her by your parent’s picture.  Perhaps that was the parting message Dad left me in the dream, right after he diagnosed the water leak.  Perhaps he wanted this special piece from the special artist displayed.

So, I did.  But this presented a new problem.

I have a small, family-heirloom table that serves as an altar; a shrine for my parents.  It is crowded already, as there are pictures, multiple other angels and small keepsakes to remind me of, and honor, Mom and Dad. Mom’s favorite saint–Saint Francis, as well as his prayer, is honored there, too.

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Give away one thing of great value,” was the advice given on a favorite daily calendar.

As these words from several months ago rang in my head, I knew what I must do.  I must part with one angel to make room for this one.  “One in, one out,” is the rule I try to live by when adding new possessions.  This is hard, and just this morning over coffee, my husband reminded me that I don’t necessarily need to one in just because I one out.  We will table this discussion for another day.

Today, however, is a special day.  December 2nd is my neighbor Diana’s birthday, and she, too, loves angels.  She speaks the language of angels, understands loss and forges on, having lost a son 21 years ago, the same way I lost my parents.

This beautiful angel, a gift from a family friend, was given within a floral arrangement at my parents’ funeral.  Her beauty must be shared, so I am passing her on to my angel of a neighbor, Diana, in honor of her angel in Heaven, Mark.

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This gratitude thing can be hard.  Some days, I don’t feel very grateful.  If I didn’t sleep well, which is a hit-or-miss affair at age 52, and especially if certain joints have decided to act up again, then I lose my focus.  I find myself angry because sleep escaped me, which makes everything gray and more uncomfortable.

I take some quiet time each morning to write, especially by hand, in a journal.  One practice that I keep is this:  write down three things I am grateful for, three things I haven’t written before, as well as all the big ones I write every day.   Most days, before I do this, I wonder what on earth I will come up with.  I think I can’t possibly think of three new things again, yesterday and the day before were hard enough.

Yet, I do.  I have become skilled at taking a glass that is half-empty, and calling it half-full.  It’s all in how you look at it.

And the how you look at it is the key.

It is your choice to see the glass as half-empty or half-full.  No one gets to dictate those thoughts inside your head.  It is always your choice, and I am here to testify that I have tried it both ways, and half-full always feels better.

When I get really desperate, when I feel there is no way I can possibly find even one more thing to be thankful for that I haven’t yet written down, I get quite creative with my gratitude.  Among the things I have written down on these lowest of low days include:

*electricity:  there was a planned power outage from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

*French press coffee during this power outage, courtesy of my husband heating the water on the gas burner on his grill in order to press the coffee, our morning life-giving drink.

*flannel sheets

*six 25-cent CDs at a garage sale from several of my favorite artists

*no sign of bedbugs after being exposed to them (again) on a home health visit

*a beautiful, intricate spiderweb on the porch

While it has taken me a long time—years—to sense gratitude for the following, I can say, with peace,  I have arrived at a place where I am thankful for these gifts:

*my parents didn’t have to leave each other behind when they died

*they didn’t have to suffer for one moment, like so many of my patients do

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Angels are among us, within us and all around us.  If you don’t sense this, turn some thoughts around.  Look around.  I hope you find them close, within your own home, even.  If you are lucky like me, you will have one or more as your sister/sisters.

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Perhaps you may even have one next door, like I do.

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Happy Birthday Diana

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May every day be Thanksgiving Day for you.  May you take the spirit of gratitude into the Christmas season with you to find the peace that is within, so that you may do what you can to create peace on earth, just like Mom and Saint Francis asked us all to do.

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EAT MORE PIE

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EAT MORE PIE

There was a time in my life when I didn’t eat much meat.  I didn’t drink much coffee, either.  I rarely ate sweets, and only occasionally did I drink alcohol.

Those were good times; I was happy.  This discipline suited me well—then.

When I meet someone who doesn’t consume any or all the above, I understand.  It truly is the best thing for some people.

It worked for me then, but not now.  I start my day with coffee, no exceptions.  Strong, black coffee.  Several cups of it.  I don’t eat a lot of meat every day, nor do I limit myself  if I desire it.  I ate a significant amount of turkey this holiday, which I count as meat.  Dark meat turkey happens to be my favorite meat. I drank a beer or two each day of the holiday weekend, but that’s not out of the ordinary.

That leaves the sweets.  I have had a lifelong see-saw relationship with sweets, an all-or-nothing mentality in the past.  Not anymore.

I know from multiple attempts at proving the notion wrong that I do indeed feel better if I don’t indulge in sweets.

But that doesn’t stop me from eating a little bit—not a lot, and not every day.  But enough to enjoy them, enough to savor the treat without making myself feel bad.

Pie happens to be one of my favorite sweet treats.  Pie also happens to be one of my favorite things to bake.

So, I signed up to bring pies to both family gatherings for Thanksgiving—my husband’s family on Thanksgiving Day, and Gail’s house on Saturday.

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I made eight pies:  Six pumpkin, and two sweet potato.  In honor of my mother, and just like every other pie I have ever made in my life, I made the crusts from scratch.  It was a three-hour, Thanksgiving Eve labor of love.

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My boys had friends over as I was baking.  One of them wasn’t sure there would be his beloved pumpkin pie at their feast, so he went home with the two missing pieces. 

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I am fully aware of the discrepancy, the dissonance, the abject disagreement between last week’s post highlighting my niece Lydia’s struggles with Type One Diabetes, and this week’s post singing the praises of pie, and eating more of it.  I had already decided upon the topic of gratitude when I found this awesome charm:

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It went so well with my Thanksgiving shirt, I knew it was meant to be.

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Lydia’s diabetes doesn’t prevent her from eating sugar, but it does require advance carb measuring, strategizing what and how much, prioritizing intake and injecting insulin to compensate for the carbohydrates she decides to consume.  To make it as easy as possible for Lydia to enjoy everything else, and, of course, to make myself appear to be a good aunt who doesn’t speak and write out of both sides of her mouth, I made one of the pumpkin pies sugar-free.

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My intended moral of the story is this:  Don’t deny yourself any desired joy in life if there is some way to make it work.  Figure it out, and go for it.  You owe it to yourself.  It’s Thanksgiving.

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Giving thanks should not limited to one day each year.  This holiday, which happens to be my favorite, should serve all of us as an annual check-up to ensure that we are practicing this virtue called gratitude every single day of the year.  Just like Lydia doesn’t get a day off from measuring her blood sugar and counting her carbs accordingly, neither should any of us take a day off from measuring our levels of gratitude, and counting all we have to be thankful for.  Like Lydia–and every other diabetic, we should do this every day as if our lives depend on it.

Because guess what:  your life, if you want to live it to the fullest, does depend on it.

The wheel of gratitude is not always an easy one to grease; I have been there.  When  you need a gratitude adjustment–as we all have at times–it’s best to start simple.

So, let’s adjust.  If you are reading this, you are likely breathing, so start there.  And keep going.

*If you have a partner, children or a family you love, they are among the greatest gifts.  If you don’t, and you want to, give thanks for the power you have to change that.  Look inward, not for external causes.

*If you have a job you love, you are miles ahead of many people.  If you don’t like your job, and it pays the bills, you are more fortunate than most people on Earth.   All of us have the opportunity to look for a different job.

*Even if you don’t like our current political situation, we do live in the Land of Liberty.  If you disagree, you can consider moving to another country.  Be thankful for that, too.

There.  I got you started.  Please keep going.

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I am writing as the Thanksgiving Sunday blizzard moves through, the blizzard that brought us home a day early from Gail’s house, my favorite Thanksgiving destination for my favorite holiday.  I chose to be grateful we were able to go, as well as:

*Enjoying the company of not only Gail’s family, but Suzanne’s, too, and part of one brother’s family.  Some years we have more, but the skeleton crew was a gift as well.  We will see more of them at Christmas.  Our children enjoy their cousins, a gift we didn’t get to enjoy as we grew up, as we only had one.  My boys taught them how to play 6-point pitch, something they recently learned from hanging out with my husband’s family.img_20181124_140648693.jpg

*Safe travels during the 450-mile round trip, with a dependable vehicle to take us there and back.

*My firstborn made it back to campus safely late last night after we returned home early, beating the blizzard—another 60 miles east.

*A cozy escape in a cabin on the shores of the small lake in Gail’s small town:  we anticipated an overnight crowd at Gail’s, and reserved space accordingly, so we kept it.

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*Warm soup today made from leftover turkey, but more importantly, made by my husband.  If you recall from a previous post, I only like to bake, not cook. 

*A cozy, warm, private space in my home  first and foremost to nap, then to write.

*I am solar-powered, and less daylight brings me down.  Only 26 more days until the days get longer!

*As always, my sisters—as well as my entire family.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  Take the simple things and make them special, because this is where special lives—right amidst the simplest of everyday gifts that are often overlooked.  But first, you must consecrate them with gratitude in order to make them special.

Let us not forget the big things, either.  Every day, whatever degree of good health you have, your family, food, clothing and shelter, as well as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should never be overlooked.

Write them down every day.  Start a journal. Putting them on paper with your own handwriting gives you not only awareness, but ownership.  Often, this simple act is all it takes to turn the ship around, to make your perceived lack become certain abundance.

It is your choice.  You get to decide if you want to see through skinny, little lenses of half-empty, or big, round glasses of half-full.

For the life of me, and all that counts as a blessing, I’m not sure why anyone would choose anything but half—or all the way—full.

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Gail, Suzanne and I took our third annual Thanksgiving photo in Camp Gail, her private, highly personalized, highly decorated space in her home.  Along with our two previous Thanksgiving pictures, it will now grace the opening to every Sister Lode post.

We Camped out in her retreat, her private sanctuary for as long as we could before we had to get back to the cooking and the crowd.

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As always, we laughed a lot.

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And, as always, the sun always comes out again after the blizzard, after every dark day.  I gave thanks for that, too.

 

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My husband and son were eager to move snow after the blizzard stopped.  For that, I am over-the-top grateful.  

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After I woke up from my nap in my private space–both of which I am so thankful for, I ate more pie-both sweet potato and pumpkin.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERY DAY.  

 

A BLUE AND GRAY RIBBON

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A BLUE AND GRAY RIBBON

Imagine your immune system as an army, armed and ready to fight off any and all enemies.   It is a well-trained, disciplined and dedicated team of soldiers.  When an invader, such as a cold or the flu tries to take over, your immune system soldiers mobilize and defeat the enemy.

Most of the time, they do their job quite well.  They recognize the enemy and they know the allies in your body as well.  They are there to protect and serve them.  They do their best, but unfortunately, sometimes we still get sick.  Mercifully, most of us bounce back from illness, and our immune system army has been made even stronger having this battle behind them.

Now, imagine that this army has had a mutiny; the soldiers decide to fight for the other team, and an evil and dictatorial military leader has taken over.  He is commanding them to attack their own.  And they do.

This is what an autoimmune disease does.  The immune system sees its own body, its own master, its own homeland as the enemy, so it attacks.

Type One Diabetes is an autoimmune disease, long with a too-long list of other diseases, including:

*rheumatoid arthritis

*multiple sclerosis

*celiac disease

*Lupus

*Psoriasis

*Grave’s Disease

*Scleroderma

*alopecia

*myocarditis

*amyloidosis

*Crohn’s Disease

And the list goes on for far too long.

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When a person has an immune system disorder, the immune system cannot be recruited back, cannot be re-programmed to return to fight in its homeland, for the home team.  It must be countered with multiple medical interventions.

And so, the life of a Type One Diabetic must depend upon these interventions.  Pictured below is Lydia’s first year of insulin and supplies.

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Maybe you knew already, but I didn’t.  And I thought I learned a lot in the last year since Gail’s daughter Lydia was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes.  But I didn’t know that:

*Type One Diabetes is the second most common chronic illness in children, behind asthma.

*Children are often misdiagnosed with a virus, acid reflux, sinus infection, urinary tract infection or strep throat.

*Type One Diabetes mortality is greatest in infants, toddlers and preschoolers due to lack of diagnosis and dehydration.

*Almost all cases are diagnosed before age 40, with the vast majority before 18.

*By 2050, the incidence in teenagers and children is predicted to triple, with the average age increasing.

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What a difference a year makes.  Thirteen months ago, Gail’s daughter Lydia was handed a diagnosis that would forever change her life.  Forever.  As in, every day for the rest of her life.  As in, if she doesn’t monitor her blood sugar and act accordingly, she could die.

She has no choice but to act.  She doesn’t get a day off, not even on Thanksgiving Day.  So, this Thanksgiving holiday, she will not be able to simply eat whatever she wants and pay the price only in feeling stuffed and sleepy.  She will have to plan ahead, by counting the carbohydrates in everything she plans to eat, right down to the creamy sauce in the green bean casserole.  While I, and everyone else in our family simply eat whatever we choose—and likely too much of it—she will be monitoring her intake of all those luscious carbohydrates—mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie and cake, pecan pie, as well any and all sauces, condiments, snacks and drinks.  She will have to pre-empt any blood sugar spikes by injecting herself with insulin before she eats, something she does 4-6 times every day, every day of the year.  And she will do it with her sweet smile, as all of us simply eat without thinking about the possible consequences.

Thanksgiving is coming around and I love to eat all the sweets but let me tell you about my mom’s stuffing–it’s soooooo good!  I plan on eating as much as I want, so I will dial up the insulin in my pen, and I will cut back on the sweets so I can eat more potatoes and stuffing.”  –Lydia, on anticipating Gail’s locally famous Thanksgiving dressing.

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Because I am a word nerd, and I like to know word origins, I decided to look up the word “stroke.”  Having worked with strokes for about 20 years at the time, I wondered why we call it as such.

From several online sources, I gleaned this information:  As far back as 500 years ago, when someone had a stroke and they truly had no idea what had happened to that person in just one moment, they decided that person must have been stroked by the hand of God.

Now, 500+ years later, we know more about strokes than we did then—not everything, of course, but we still call it a stroke.

Diabetes: Greek—to siphon.  One source reports it was named in the 1560’s by Aretaeus the Cappadocian, a Greek physician.  Another states it was named in 1552 by Hesy-Ra, an Egyptian physician.  Named as such because of the excess sugar found in blood and urine, as if it has been siphoned.  Excess urination is a classic sign of diabetes.

As you can see, I had to know where the word diabetes came from, too.

Gail is a word nerd, too.  She told me that she recalls being fascinated by the term islets(pronounced eyelets) of Langerhans in high school anatomy/physiology.  They are regions that house the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, the absent hormone that causes Type One Diabetes.  Little did she know that almost 40 years later, her daughter would be lacking these cells, causing her to develop Type One Diabetes.

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In Not Her Type, (February 4th),  I wrote about the differences between Type One and Type Two diabetes.  If I can reiterate one point I made then, it is this:  there is no known method of prevention or cure for Type One.

If I may paint a picture with words, it would be this:  imagine having to find a way to pump your own heart, and expand and compress your lungs because they can no longer do it on their own.  In Type One Diabetes, the medical interventions are in place to find a way to replace the insulin the pancreas no longer produces, so that the food you eat can be converted to glucose in order to provide the fuel to make your body go.  Just like when your car runs out of gas and can no longer go, the body runs out of glucose, which is your fuel. And then, just like your car, you can no longer go.

 

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

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Perhaps you are tired of yet another “awareness” campaign, another month dedicated to awareness of yet another disease you don’t have to worry about.  I get it.  I get how you may feel bombarded by yet another colored ribbon.  I’m not here to say you should focus on diabetes awareness above all others.  Like every other diagnosis/disease, it is best to know the symptoms, so that you may save your own life or that of someone you love.

In addition, if you already know someone who is affected, it is a gesture of caring and concern to educate yourself about what they are going through with their disease.

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Type One Diabetes was formerly called “Juvenile Diabetes,” because it was typically diagnosed in childhood.  This is still the case, but not always.  A close friend’s brother was diagnosed at age 51 since Lydia’s diagnosis.  I can now speak the language with her, because I understand it so much better.

While the exact level of association is widely estimated, there is a genetic link in Type One diabetes.  My friend also has a nephew—her brother’s blood relative—who has Type One Diabetes.  Unfortunately, their family already spoke the language.  To my knowledge, Lydia has no close relatives with Type One Diabetes.

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So, Lydia has Type One Diabetes, but it doesn’t have her.

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She fights it every day, measuring her blood sugar, then counting carbs before she eats them, and, finally,

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injecting herself with insulin.

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I feel a thousand times better than I did before I was diagnosed, but when I go to bed at night I wonder how I will feel when I wake up as some mornings I don’t feel great.  I try to remedy this feeling at bedtime by eating something with carbs, then protein by helping my blood sugar to remain at a safe level.”

“Sometimes I wonder if I should eat carbs because insulin is so expensive.  I dread taking shots to cover the carbs, but I have gotten used to it.”

Most of us only worry about what carbs will look like on our hips, not on our bank account.

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Please enjoy Thanksgiving dinner this week.  If you are not diabetic, be sure to give thanks for that gift.

If you have Type One Diabetes, don’t let it have you, and please enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner.

If you are close to someone with Type One Diabetes, let them know you are thankful they are fighting the good fight.  They really have no choice, but hearing this from you will be a gift to them.

Stay aware, keep fighting and give thanks.  You Can Do It.

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Thank you, Lydia, for raising my awareness.  You are a warrior.

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The response to last week’s post, “The Magnificent Seven,” which introduced you to the Greif sisters and their travels, was overwhelming.  If you and your sisters have a story to tell–travels or no travels, or if you know an amazing group of sisters who stand out among sisters, please let us know.

 

 

 

LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME

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LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME

“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”

As a child, I recall hearing and saying this many times:  “I can do what I want.  It’s a free country.”  It was typically in response to some perceived offense, and when confronted, the offending party would often respond with that phrase.

I don’t hear kids—or adults—saying that much anymore.  But we should never forget the meaning behind it.

“And I won’t forget the men (and women) who died, who gave that right to me.”

On Saturday of this week, my husband’s family celebrated his father’s 80th birthday with a large gathering of 50-plus family members.  The host led grace just before the meal, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, then “Happy Birthday” sung to the birthday boy from the crowd.  This trifecta was the perfect display of gratitude first for the food, then for the freedom, followed by a family honoring a strong and deserving patriarch.

“And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.”

After the singing, my father-in-law and the uncles who served our country were asked to stand to be recognized and honored.  There were seven .  We applauded with our hands and with our hearts.

This will never be enough to let them know how much we appreciate their service, but they don’t expect any more than that.  They simply served; they were honored to give.

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Our dad didn’t serve in the military.  He was deemed not fit enough due to flat feet.  Now, most of his seven children have flat feet, but we might not be here otherwise.

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Memorial Day is a wonderful bonus Monday off for many people, myself included.  But, as this Facebook post so painfully illustrates, it goes so much deeper than that.  Deeper than the vast majority of us will ever know.  Deeper than our worst nightmares can conjure, to a depth that that should always be seared upon our minds, hearts and souls how supremely fortunate we are to live in a free country.

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OUR FREEDOM ISN’T FREE.

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Gail, Suzanne and I got to spend the weekend together.  Gail traveled the 230 miles to our small city, and we savored this gift of time together in the sisterhood.  We are supremely fortunate to have each other, and we know it.

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We are celebrating our parents this weekend too, as we do every time we are together.   None of us felt the need to visit their graves; we know they are not there.  Mom made it clear before they died that we were welcome to visit her plot when she was gone, but we wouldn’t find her there.

And we don’t.

We find both of them in our togetherness, wherever we go.

Our brothers and their families who live on their farms close to our hometown take tender, loving care of their graves there, and for that, we are so grateful.  We visit when we are there at other times throughout the year.

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I was a kid during Vietnam.  I watched news coverage of the Gulf War and the other foreign conflicts that took place as I grew up, and unfortunately, continue to take place around the world.  Often, I simply turn off the news when more coverage is aired.  I simply cannot take more bad news of war.  I didn’t fully realize the depth of our freedom NOT being free until I watched the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, unfold on live television.

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”    Jimi Hendrix, a famous 1960’s rock musician, is credited with this statement.  Online sources list other similar quotes, which may have inspired him.  It summarizes what I feel is the answer as well.  Ironically, Jimi Hendrix enlisted in the U.S. Army and trained as a paratrooper, and was granted an honorable discharge.

But how to find this peace?  What can each of us do, as Average Jane and Joe Citizen, to bring this about?  What on earth—literally-can we do to stop the fighting across the world?  We all think that, as just one person, our actions–good or bad–cannot possibly make a difference.

These hundreds (thousands?) of years, these scores of generations of violence toward our fellow man in the name of one’s god, one’s country, one’s pain, scorn and oppression cannot easily be turned around.  This is the way of life for so many, so many fellow humans who have never known a day of peace.  So many who don’t even know there is a better way.

So many, just like ourselves, who think there is nothing, as an individual, that can be done.

Oh, but there is.

There is one beacon, one guiding principle that each of us can put to work every day.  The key word is work, because it takes a lot of that.  If you have even one iota of self-induced strife in your heart, it has the potential to create a negative ripple, and it can be worked upon.  If you think there is nothing you can do to bring peace to the world, think again.

I have written about it before, and I will write about it again.  I offer no apologies to anyone who doesn’t want to hear anything remotely related to religion, because this only has to relate to humanity.  It comes to you and me as fellow humans, breathing the same air, co-existing on the same earth, from another human being.  A man who walked this same earth, breathed this same air from 1181-1226.  A man who gave up riches to pursue a life of humility and peace:  Saint Francis of Assisi.  He is venerated worldwide as the original Instrument of Peace, the man who wrote the prayer.

He is the saint my parents modeled their lives after, leaving us a tremendous legacy, as well as a tough act to follow.  Specifically, our mother wrote a letter to be read at her funeral asking us to live our lives by this prayer.

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So, we try.  For myself, I stumble and fall, get up and keep trying to try.  Some days, that’s the most I can do.  Some days I do a little better.  But I never stop trying.  I can’t.  Mom saw to it that we were handed those marching orders, and we saw to it that it was written in stone on the back of their tombstone in their honor.

 

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I did something recently that didn’t make me feel very good about myself.  Something that, in the parlance of my Catholic upbringing was very likely very venial, was still very wrong.  And my hyper-developed conscience wouldn’t let me rest until I did something about it.  It was more than a white lie, perhaps a shade of light gray.  Nothing damning, nothing that would incite violence or crush someone’s soul, but wrong, nonetheless.  At the time, it felt like an eye for an eye, but in hindsight, it really was something more like an eye for a toenail clipping.

So, I came clean.  I went to the person who would be affected by this transgression, even though it was known only to me.   I confessed.  I owned up to the infraction, made reparations as best I could, and they forgave with open arms.  They asked only to allow them the chance in the future to help to prevent it from happening again.  In a turn I wouldn’t have imagined, they were an Instrument of Peace to me.

So, if an offense is committed deep in a forest and no one hears or sees it, did it really happen?  Is it really wrong?

Undeniably, unequivocally, YES and YES.

If your little voice tells you that you can make peace by righting a wrong, or even creating a right where no wrong existed, then you’d better listen.  That voice is not only your conscience and your voice of reason, it is a much wiser, deeper part of your soul speaking.  It is your opportunity be an Instrument of Peace.

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“Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,”

I do love this land.  I love the open fields and rolling hills of my home state, and there are so many other parts of this land I want to explore.  My away-from-home favorites are the mountains of Colorado and the beaches of Florida, but there are so many more places in these great States I want to visit.  I don’t even have a strong desire to travel abroad because there is so much in America I haven’t seen yet.  Places open to me and you and everyone else to visit because this is indeed a free country.  We are at liberty to travel where we want to go.

For that, and for every other liberty small and large, our military is to thank.  The brave men and women who served and those in active duty as well.  Those who may never know the liberty they deserve.  Those who gave up their liberties so that we may have ours.  Words will never be enough to express our gratitude, but it is a start.  God bless them, and…

“God Bless the USA.”

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Please observe Memorial Day with gratitude for all the liberties you possess.   Please thank any active or former military service man or woman.   And, because I know it never goes away, I extend my sympathy to you for anyone you are mourning.

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Thank you for your continued support.   My sisters and I are grateful for the opportunity to reach out to each of you through this blog.  We want to take our mother’s dying wish and make it work not just for us, but for the world.  In the face of conflict, in what appear to be war-torn families and relationships, we are often asked what we do to make it work and to keep it all together.  So many people, we have learned, don’t have even a taste of what we have.  If we can help you in any way to find it, please let us know.  Send an email through the blog, or message any of us privately on Facebook.  Please reach out.  

 

 

 

OUR FAVORITE GIFTS OF 2017

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OUR FAVORITE GIFTS OF 2017

I usually just say no.    I get several requests every year to work privately with children.  I am most comfortable with adults, and I feel that another speech therapist would be better suited for helping children.

Given that, I did have the pleasure of working with a fine young boy on his speech sounds for an extended period of time.  I said yes to this request, and I am so glad I did.

I went to his home typically once a week after school for a period of several years.  He and his family were delightful.  I was a guest in their home, but they made me feel at home every time I was there.

Every year at Christmas, I received a handmade Christmas ornament from him.  He presented them to me on my last visit before the holiday; and I treasured each of them.  I hung them together on my tree, and sent a picture to his mother to show him how great they looked on our tree.

I stopped working with him just over a year ago, not long before Christmas.   When I put the tree up this year, I hung each of his three ornaments together.  I stepped back and smiled, recalling the fond memories of him and his family.

About a week before Christmas, I stopped by Suzanne’s house.  Her home is close to theirs, and as I drove by their street, I recalled more fond memories of him and his family.

When I got home, there was a parcel on my porch.  His name was on it.  He made another ornament for me.

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There are some rewards to my work that no paycheck can compete with.

Another patient, knowing my dad’s favorite pie was a straight raisin pie—no cream on this one—and that I liked it too, delivered one to me the week before Christmas.  His wife made it just for me.  It was delicious, and my dad would have loved it.

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And there’s James and Lucy from my Time for Letting Go:  Part Two, dated October 29th.  How did they know I love clean and fresh candle scents instead of flowery ones?  I have told them so much about me, but I am sure I didn’t share this little fact.  They just knew.

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Therapists are not allowed to accept large gifts, but our code of ethics allows those of “nominal” value.    Monetarily, these could be called “nominal.”  However, they are worth far more in a different kind of currency.  When I sometimes feel I am making no difference, not helping these people at all, I simply remember their appreciation expressed through gifts like these.  And then I remember why I continue to do this work.

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Gail, Suzanne and I have an annual Christmas tradition.  We give each other gifts.  Of course, this sounds like garden variety gift-giving.  But these are no regular gifts.  These are gifts we shop for year-round, gifts we accumulate slowly, methodically, purposefully.  We buy them new in cool stores, used at garage sales, find the hard-to-find ones on eBay,  troll the thrift stores year-round (Suzanne and I do, anyway), and special order them when we need to.  These gifts—and there are multiple ones for each of us—are, quite simply, the best.

During our family Christmas get-together, we sneak away for our private exchange when we think no one is looking.  Except they’re on to us by now, and when we slip away, someone always finds us.

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Busted again!  We thought perhaps in Ryan’s house, they wouldn’t know where to look, but they did.  The sisters-in-law have now vowed—in good-natured ribbing– to start their own secret gift exchange, and we hope they do, because it is so much fun.

These gifts are special, solemn and secret.  It would not be right to showcase them, but perhaps the picture gives you a small inkling.   We seem to know exactly what each of us needs to get in a special package from their two special sisters.

Because Suzanne is a minimalist, and because laughter is a gift too, she chose to receive her largest gift from me as a ticket to a night together, complete with much laughter.

There is a small, art-deco style theater in the beautiful downtown of our small city.  A very funny lady with a great first name—Kathleen Madigan—performed there in November, so Suzanne was my date.  The memories of her humor and our laughter made that gift priceless to me, and I hope Suzanne felt the same way.

Gail and I always find treasures in Cripple Creek at Christine’s place, 9494.  I had found yet another one there on our trip in September, and I resisted the temptation—initially.  I told myself if it was still there the next day that it was mine.  We went back, and it was gone.  “Then it wasn’t meant to be,” I thought, and assumed it had found a more deserving home.

It showed up in my gift package from Gail.

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Suzanne’s daughter gave her a gift that brought back great memories of her childhood, a retro-style toy that was recently resurrected, and Julia found her mother’s favorite one, which was Suzanne’s favorite tangible gift:

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Suzanne was an exceptionally cute little girl.  Of course, she is still cute, but not like she was when we were kids.  She treasures a certain picture of both of us, one where she looks cute as a button, and I look, well, not cute.  She delights in showing this picture to her new co-workers, because I already knew many of them.  She wanted me to have an enlarged print.  She wanted to keep the frame subtle, she said, so as not to take the focus off of the subjects of the picture.  It now sits on my bedside table.

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(Please realize the enormous amount of self-acceptance required for me to post this picture for the world to see.)

There is a certain person who delights in reminding me just how not cute I look in this picture.  He even has the audacity to suggest that, perhaps, my pre-adolescent female hormones were late to arrive.  He knows who he is, and I have but one cryptic word for him:  karma.

Mercifully, my fashion sense has evolved, the gap between my teeth grew shut, I shed the pre-adolescent weight, and I got a more flattering haircut.

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But all these things are just things.

The greatest gifts are not things.  The greatest gifts cannot be bought or touched. They are experienced.

We celebrated Christmas with our siblings and their families, and we celebrated Ryan’s birthday too, just as we always do.

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Our day at his house together was wrapped up at its close with another beautiful Kansas sunset, its vast expanse visible out his front door.

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Because I couldn’t decide if the earlier picture or the later one was more beautiful, I included both of them.

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Gail and her family left Ryan’s house in the pre-dawn hours and headed north to visit Gail’s daughter and her family in northern Michigan.  After a semi-treacherous period of 20 hours, five more than it should have taken, they arrived.

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Gail’s greatest gift she says—hands down—was time with her daughter, and her grandsons.

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The ornaments, the pie, candle and necklace, and all the other gifts were absolutely wonderful.  I am very grateful to each of their givers for their thoughtfulness and generosity.

The biggest and best gifts, however, cannot be wrapped and given away, cannot be bought or made.  The Giver gives, and too often, we take, without saying thank you.

For these gifts bestowed upon me in 2017, I want to give thanks:

*Always, for my sisters.

*Suzanne now lives and works in my small city, much closer to me.

*More travels with my sisters.  Whether it be Colorado, Florida, Nebraska or somewhere in Kansas, I relish the memories and look forward to making more.

*The unique celebration of sisterhood through this blog.

*Another year, another birthday to relish, because age is a gift.  I welcomed 51, Gail celebrated 57, and Suzanne is proud to be 47.  We don’t hide our ages, because we know the gift of every year, of every day, every moment.

*For you, dear reader.  You gave me the faith to keep this endeavor afloat after its maiden voyage.  You made me believe I really can do it.

*Work that continues to sustain and support me.

*Good health:  my work reminds me every day that it is a gift not granted, a gift to be savored and enjoyed every day.

*My ability to communicate in spoken and written form.  My work also reminds me daily of this gift, the gift that allows us to connect with others and be fully alive through it.

*Our continued constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  These may be legal rights, but more importantly, they are all three gifts from God.

*My family.  Another addition extended the circle of love.

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Because my patients also found the humor in these, I want to share two misspoken New Year’s greetings from two different women who had strokes, and had difficulty choosing the right words.  It was New Year’s Eve day during their therapy sessions three years and one year ago respectively, and after multiple attempts, these two greetings are what they called good enough:

“Happy Two Beers!”

“Happy Near You!”

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Happy 2018 to all of you.  May every moment of this new year be a gift.

 

 

 

GIVE THANKS

 

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THANK YOU

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ that will be enough.”    Meister Eckhart

Our country celebrated my favorite holiday last week.  I celebrated with my husband’s family on Thursday, and my family on Saturday.  I try to celebrate it alone every day. I try to find small and large things to be grateful for.  Some days, I know I don’t try hard enough.  When I give it my best, I get the best in return.

I find more peace.  More joy.  More awareness of so many more things I need to be grateful for.  More awareness of how rich life can be when I focus on the good.

I am now grateful for things that used to drag me down.  Like the seemingly endless stretch of Interstate 70 that leads to Gail’s house:

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I drove this hundred mile stretch several hundred times on my way from my current small city to an even smaller city during my graduate school days:

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If I try just a little harder, I can find so many beautiful sights along the way to be thankful for.  Out of respect for Gail and Suzanne’s love of the wind,  I have come to appreciate–only a little more– the reason why Kansas has so many of these:

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An hour past my alma mater town, this gem on the plains is the hometown of both of my in-laws.  They were married in this church that stands as a tall beacon on the prairie skyline, and all four of my husband’s grandparents were laid to rest behind the church.  A dear friend’s parents are buried there as well.   In an unlikely coincidence, my mom’s father was born there at home, but didn’t live there long as a child.

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As I age, I am more thankful that I was born and raised a Kansas farm girl.  While my family trusted only the red tractors, combines and other machinery, the green ones are fixtures on the Kansas plains.  My husband’s brother-in-law recently retired from a long and storied career with the green tractor company, so I have to respect them too.  Only if you were raised on a farm would you understand the ongoing debate/argument over which tractor is better:  red or green?  Either one will adequately harvest the current corn crop, which, in the last 10 years, is becoming a bigger cash crop in Kansas.

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So, just when I think I can no longer tolerate the monotony of the flat western Kansas landscape, the road to Gail’s house takes a surprise twist:  hills!

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Then, about ten minutes later, we have arrived.  Over the plains and through the hills, to Gail’s house we go.24058991_1925613150786933_3385765566210426815_n[1]

Gail and Suzanne are busy cooking; Suzanne and her family arrived last night.

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Anyone in the kitchen is expected to lend a hand.

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This is Gail’s time to shine, it is the pinnacle of the year–in family terms–for her.  I think that’s why it’s my favorite too.  Three of our four brothers, their wives and most of their offspring were there as well.   If Gail is in charge, it’s gonna be good.

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And it was.

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Our new tradition is to take a picture in Camp Gail, just like we did last year.

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After duplicating that picture, we decided to try to duplicate this one, with a slight modification to reflect the fact that we are all fifteen years older than when this picture was taken:

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It didn’t turn out so well:

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Still, we tried.  And we will keep on trying to have all the fun we possibly can.   I am so thankful for that.

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I have long been thankful for Kansas sunsets, perhaps the most recognized natural wonder of The Wheat State.

Happy Thanksgiving every day from the three Kansas  wheat farm girls of the Sister Lode.